The only bystander who was wounded in the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy says he is still working on coming to terms with what he witnessed on that fateful day in Dallas.
James Tague was a 27-year-old car salesman late for a lunch date when traffic stopped in front of him near the triple underpass of Dealey Plaza. Barely aware of the president's visit, he stepped out of his car to see what was going on.
"I'm standing there maybe four or five seconds, and somebody throws a firecracker," Tague told MyFoxDFW.com. "And I'm thinking, 'What kind of idiot would be throwing a firecracker with the president going by?' Course, that was the first shot. Then the crack, crack, quick shots in a row, and something stings me in the face."
Tague, now 77, said he was hit with pieces of concrete when a bullet intended for Kennedy missed the president’s limousine and struck the curbside a few feet away from him. He and a deputy sheriff were trying to figure out what had happened.
"We walked across the street just in time to hear this man sobbing, 'His head exploded. His head exploded,'" Tague told the station. "And the policeman said, 'Who's head?' And he said, 'The president's.'"
He was eventually taken to police headquarters to provide a statement. He told MyFoxDFW.com that while he was waiting, Lee Harvey Oswald was brought in for questioning.
Tague's wounds did not require medical care and were mentioned only briefly in media reports. It was not until his story was picked up by The Associated Press several months later that investigators examined the ricocheting bullet.
"They had to go back and rewrite the Warren Commission," he said. "That's where the magic bullet came from. That's the only thing they could come up with. That's the only thing they could come up with. That one bullet went through two people."
Tague, who is known as "the accidental victim" in the Nov. 22, 1963 shooting, started doing his own research on the assassination and found that the piece of curbstone from Dealey Plaza had been removed and filed in the National Archives in Washington, TimesDispatch.com reported.
After more than 30 years of research into the shooting, Tague said he believes Oswald was innocent and that Kennedy was killed by a team of hit men hired by then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson.
“Finding this was no big deal, it’s like a crossword puzzle — you just got to start putting the pieces together,” Tague told TimesDispatch.com. “Kennedy’s assassination was not a conspiracy, it was a coup.”
Still, Tague still struggles with discussing what he observed that day. He hopes a new book he is writing on the subject will solve the mysteries surrounding the assassination.
“I have never found the right words to describe it. It’s like it happened in a movie or something,” Tague told TimesDispatch.com. “Fifty years later, I still haven’t fully accepted that he was killed right in front of me.”